Burgum statement on Commerce audit investigation

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BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum released the following statement today after the Burleigh County State’s Attorney confirmed that the North Dakota Department of Commerce complied with state law during its most recent audit period.

“This reaffirms what we knew all along: that Commerce team members acted legally, in accordance with legislative intent, and with the best interests on behalf of our state’s citizens,” Burgum said. “The multiple audits in the past year that made hyped-up allegations of criminal charges toward state employees, including state librarians and members of our Commerce Department, have created an environment of real fear among state employees. This fear became a reality as hardworking, dedicated public servants had to hire their own legal counsel – at their own personal expense – to defend themselves against false criminal allegations that in any real-world audit would have been considered non-material classification errors and been mentioned in a footnote of an audit, versus being a headline in a press release.”

“Next session, the Legislature has an important opportunity to bring clarity to multiple sections of state law to ensure that the audit oversight rests firmly with the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee, so the committee can determine after a fair hearing what audit items reach the threshold of a need for criminal investigation.“

Among the state’s attorney’s findings:

  • “There are no facts indicating the amount paid for the work done was excessive. There are no facts indicating the Department of Commerce did not get the work it contracted out for or paid the individuals to complete.”
  • “There were no concerns about the work done or the amount of funds paid to the County, rather, the concerns were from which approved appropriations the money was paid. This is not a violation of criminal law.”
  • “There are no facts to dispute the claims of the Department of Commerce who state they verbally approved the contractors.”
  • “There are no facts that support an allegation of any direct or indirect benefit to any public servant in this case.”
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